Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, June 5th, 2019

A place for everything and everything in its place.

English proverb

W North
Both ♠ A K 4 3
 J 7
 A 10 7 5
♣ A 4 3
West East
♠ 6 5
 A K 9 6 5 4
 K 8 2
♣ J 10
♠ Q J 10
 Q 10 8
 J 9 4
♣ 9 8 6 5
♠ 9 8 7 2
 3 2
 Q 6 3
♣ K Q 7 2
South West North East
  1 Dbl. 2
2 ♠ 3 3 ♠ All pass


Declarer in today’s deal from the Common Game played three spades competently. Clubs were originally 3-3, so South could eliminate that suit and endplay the defenders with the third trump to hold his diamond losers to one. However, I have changed the layout in the minors to make the task for declarer more challenging.

The defense begins with two top hearts followed by a shift to the club jack. Declarer takes the club in hand and cashes both top spades, then runs the club winners as West discards a heart. When South leads the fourth club, planning to ruff this in dummy, West must pitch a heart. Otherwise, declarer can set up diamonds easily enough for one loser. So West pitches a second heart, and, after ruffing the club in dummy, South exits from the North hand with a trump to East’s queen. What four cards does West come down to now?

If he comes down to one heart and three diamonds, then East can do no better than lead a heart, and declarer discards a diamond to endplay West to lead away from the diamond king or East from the jack.

But if West pitches a diamond, to come down to two diamonds and two hearts, declarer ruffs the third round of hearts and leads a diamond to the 10 and jack. East has only diamonds left, so he leads one, and South plays low from hand. When the king pops up, declarer has the last two tricks.

This line may require playing East for the diamond jack, against perfect defense.

This is a take-out double — effectively Stayman, but you can pass with the right hand, of course. Not this hand, though — you should simply show your spades by bidding two spades, and let partner take it from there. In this position, you have defined your values accurately already, so partner is in charge.


♠ A K 4 3
 J 7
 A 10 7 5
♣ A 4 3
South West North East
  Pass Pass 1 ♣
1 NT 2 ♣ Dbl. Pass

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ClarksburgJune 20th, 2019 at 12:44 am

Good evening Bobby.
The auction starts: 1C P 4H 4NT…
I was the Passer in second seat. My fairly new Partner made the 4NT call holding:
Q10853 2 K98752 3 . He intended “the two unbid suits” as “X would be Penalty”.
I interpreted it as “both minors” and chose Clubs, as Opener’s 1C could well have been three-card suit. No harm done. They settled in 5H making 7.
We of course did not yet have a specific agreement, and would be interested in your thoughts / advice on what the X and 4NT calls should mean.

bobbywolffJune 20th, 2019 at 4:14 am

Hi Clarksburg,

Your question is a routine new partnership dilemma. I think a double should be a strong balanced hand with about 3 1/4 defensive tricks.

Obviously I am kidding myself and more often than expected one of those defensive tricks is left at the gate, but then partner fills out that trick and perhaps adds to the 1/4 enough to escape with a small plus.

However I do think that a random 4NT should represent the 2 unbid suits, but if it goes 1H P 4H dbl. then that double should normally represent something like 4-1-4-4 with partner converting to penalties with a balanced hand and not 4 cards in the other major.

However with s. Qxxxx, h. A, d. AJx, c. A10xx I could not imagine anything but double, way ahead of both pass and 4 spades as poor substitute calls. IMO to bid 4 spades or pass is just too unilateral to even consider (although on any one hand pass or 4 spades could easily be right).

Obviously clubs, on your real exhibit hand, could be your best combined trump suit, but hoping your LHO was bidding clubs without strength and possibly at least 4 cards is just a hope that we need to dismiss, otherwise when we do have the two unbids in a distributional hand we have to worry about partner becoming too unilateral in his judgment.

Of course, sometimes we are destined to be as wrong as we can be, but, with my experience, it is at least as dangerous to pass as it is to bid aggressively since sometimes when we are wrong to bid 4NT the opponents (or at least one of them) will come riding to the rescue by competing to a level we can defeat them.

All I can wish to you is good luck on those hands where the flag is up and waving.